Ode to Toro

It’s with heaviness in my heart that I tell you about the passing of my dear friend, Toro. My long-snouted companion of 19+ years passed relatively quickly, though not without pain. The grim reaper’s presence was signaled by an unusual grinding and metallic coughing, followed by hiccups and stammering, topped off by a little puff of air and finished with the big kaput.

Goodbye my favorite leaf blower.

His last, pitiful little puff was nothing like the strong wind he was known for in his heyday. He had gone from gale force to barely a breeze in a matter of seconds.

I left the beaten-up old guy splayed out on the deck, right where he was, in hopes that my mechanically-gifted husband might conjure a way to resuscitate him.

When Frank arrived home, I ushered him to where Toro lay helpless, his nose cone still proudly hanging on by the duct tape I had put in place years before. Without any to-do, Frank calmly, and with a surprising lack of emotion, pronounced my Toro dead. Then he threw him in the trash.

“That’s it?” I asked, following him into the house. “You’re not even going to fiddle with it?” He was the king of fiddling.

“There’s nothing I can do,” he said all matter of fact, like a detached surgeon relaying the facts to the shocked family. And with that, my favorite outdoor assistant was gone.

One of the most beautiful features of our old Atlanta neighborhood is the statuesque, mature trees. Our home is surrounded by a canopy of leafy oaks and poplars. The big guys drop enough leaves, acorns and assorted stuff to keep the yard covered, and the Toro busy, seemingly year round.

I bonded with Toro during the nesting phase of my first pregnancy. It was a rock-solid bond that only grew deeper with my second pregnancy and even deeper with my third. Growing a baby is no swift process, so the immediate satisfaction of clearing a leaf-strewn porch, driveway or deck brought me immense, clean, happy, happy, joy.

Shockingly, I have a couple friends who claim there should be a noise ordinance against the peaceful hum of a leaf blower. I still love them, despite their blasphemy. To me, it’s a lovely sound of progress and productivity.

Over the years, Toro saved me from more than messes. He saved the kids from untold accidents, what with the acorns dropping like marbles on the driveway that’s basically an all-sport court for running, scootering, rip-sticking, basketball and anything else you really shouldn’t do on marbles.

Then there was the incident with the snake.

I was working on the back porch, about to pick Emma up from preschool, when I spied the creepiest of all creepies, right there in front of her playhouse. Now don’t go all reptile rights on me, I know they do some good things, like eat yucky vermin in their quest to overcome the whole Biblical, Satan snafu. But still, they were cursed to be our enemy, so my enemy it was.

When I spotted the cold-blooded killer coiled like a cobra right there on the threshold of Emma’s plastic palace, I thought quickly and did what any brave soul would do — I grabbed my Toro. With my heart pounding I plugged in my loyal friend and together we blew that snake to kingdom come, which, in this case, was located at the end of our driveway (determined by the length of my extension cord). The knotted-up, dizzy snake lay in shock, the victim of Toro’s full-throttle power unleashed. It was a beautiful moment.

So goodbye to my trusted compadre. So long you forceful breath of fresh air. Thank you for always giving it your all, until your all was all gone.

All This Time I Thought My Eyes Were Brown

When I was a child, about the only thing I ever learned from a cartoon was to be wary of coyotes bearing Acme products.

But like a lot of things since the ‘70s, cartoons have changed for the better. These days, some actually come with a nice little takeaway. A smidge of morality that can help little ones set their miniature moral compasses.

One of my 4-year-old daughter’s favorite cartoons is the Berenstain Bears. This is an adaptation of the book series that we’ve had around our house for many years. In case you aren’t familiar with the bear family who lives in the big tree house down a sunny dirt road in bear country, they’re pretty much your typical middle-class American bear family, of the teddy variety. Aside from living in a tree house and having a little extra fur, Brother Bear and Sister Bear are a lot like regular human kids. They struggle with many of the same issues. Chores. Homework. Bullies. Over scheduling. Fitting in. Obeying Mama Bear and Papa Bear. You know, typical bear stuff.

In one particular episode, the cubs get an unwelcome visit from the green-eyed monster. Old green eyes is related, in a lot of ways, to that pesky little devil that appears on your shoulder and gets you to do bad things — only the green-eyed monster is a specialist, dedicated to instigating want. Planting the seeds of envy. Stirring the pot of malcontent. And in the Berenstain Bear’s story – turning otherwise lovely little darlings into sniveling, greedy little stinkers.

Emma chose The Green-eyed Monster episode one morning (video on demand, another notable improvement since the ‘70s) while I squeezed in my daily half-hour on the stationary bike. I look forward to my faux cycling time. Not necessarily for the exercise, but because it affords me a few minutes to make a dent in the weekly accrual of magazines that are perpetually piled on my bedside table.

This is my quiet time to research investments, brush up on foreign policy and get to the heart of our country’s $1.8 trillion deficit.


While there is usually one or two real magazines tossed in the mix, just so the housekeepers don’t think I’m completely shallow, 90 percent of them are retail catalogs — zero editorial content, 100 percent stuff. I just hate to put any of them in the recycle bin without a good once over. After all, you never know when I might stumble upon that thing I didn’t know I couldn’t live without.

Truth is, I like looking through the pages. It’s sort of my modern version of the giant Sears catalog, a.k.a. “The Wish Book,” that would land on my childhood doorstop with a window-rattling thud. The main difference is that today I’ve got a little 2×3 piece of plastic that doubles as a magic wand. With this magic piece of plastic, I can turn anything on the page into a reality that shows up in the form of a UPS package by the front door. Isn’t that fun?

So this is our weekday morning routine. I scan my magazines, alright, catalogs, and Emma watches one of her favorite shows. On this morning, as I half listened to the story, I made a comment to Emma, over the dog-eared pages of my new Anthropologie catalog, “Tsk. Tsk. Looks like Sister Bear’s got a bad case of the green-eyed monster.”

I put the catalog down and watched the plot unfold. Sister Bear was in a tizzy because Brother Bear got a new bike and she didn’t.

I peddled along shaking my head and thinking if I were Mama Bear, I’d take that greedy little fur ball by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. “Don’t you know there are cubs in this world who don’t have any honey to eat? Cubs who would love to have all those Bearbie dolls you have? Just appreciate what you have and stop begging me for more. Now march it up to your room and start hibernating right now missy. I don’t care if it is spring.”

That’s what I’d say. But not Mama Bear.

That Mama Bear is a true saint. Patient. Soft spoken. Wise. Pretty much everything I’m not. In all the episodes I’ve seen, she’s not once shown her claws or growled at her cubs. And she always seems to know just the right thing to say to get Brother and Sister back on track.

Now this may sound strange, but I look up to Mama Bear. Not since Yogi has there been a bear pushing such a good agenda. And it’s not just this one episode. I’ve known Mama Bear for a number of years now, what with three cubs of my own. She helped me gingerly introduce my kids to the somewhat scary idea of strangers. She’s shown my boys how pointless it is to play the blame game. And made them see that even bear cubs get the jitters before going away to camp.

But by far her most ingenious parenting moment was the plan she implemented the time Brother, Sister and even Papa, started loosing their manners. It was a punitive plan, designed to get the family back on a tactful track. And it was true genius.

Each breach in behavior resulted in a punishment. If you were caught interrupting, you had to dust the downstairs. Forget to say “please” or “thank you” and you were off to sweep the porch. Rude noises? You get the pleasure of weeding the garden. It went on.

Thank you, Ms. Cartoon Bear, for the fabulous idea. My mind starting spinning – wow – I could really use this to my advantage. With all the bad manners around here, I could have this house in shipshape in no time. I’ll be like an army sergeant – “Uh oh. Interrupting Mommy while she’s on the phone. Give me two scrubbed toilets.” Oh, this could be good.

I’ve actually found myself in situations where I think, what would Mama Bear do? Maybe I’ll start a new catalog filled with things no one needs and launch it with a WWMBD bracelet. But Mama Bear wouldn’t do that. In fact, if Mama Bear had a leaning tower of catalogs on her bedside table, she would probably realize it was sending her cubs the wrong message and quickly take her name off all the mailing lists. Killjoy.

But back to The Green-Eyed Monster. The message was such a good one that I even snuck it in on Emma’s older brothers. Of course they wouldn’t be caught dead watching a “baby show” but since they’re not allowed to watch any TV during the week (homework and all), I could probably get them engaged in C-SPAN just for the opportunity to stare at the screen.

To put my plan into motion, I slyly asked them to keep an eye on Emma while I took a phone call for work. They were told to do their homework in the living room while Emma watched an unspecified show (The Green-Eyed Monster, of course). If you have school-aged kids, you know it’s absolutely impossible for a child to even get past the “Name” portion of homework when they’re in the same room as a working electronic device. It’s like a transient paralysis, if you will, ensuring that my plan would be foolproof. They’d soak up every second of the show while holding their pencils in ready position and their mouths agape for the entire running time.

I didn’t want to reveal my ulterior motive, so we didn’t discuss the show. But a week or so later, it was evident that my clandestine moral lesson had sunk in when Ben and I made a quick run to Target to pick up party favors for his eighth birthday. I promised him that we’d go straight to the party section. In and out, lickety-split.

Who was I kidding? This was Target, after all, green-eyed headquarters.
Sure enough, the rapid romp-thru skidded to a halt within three feet of the threshold when the 99¢ bins beckoned like a bunch of cheap, plastic little carnival barkers. After a slow mo trek past them, with Ben’s urging, we moved on. But not far. The sight of t-shirts reminded me I needed a t-square to help Alex with a social studies project. This sent us to the art supply aisle, which meant we had to pass the greeting card aisle which reminded me that one of my client’s just had a baby girl so I needed to pick out the perfect card, which reminded me that my own girl Emma needs some new pajamas, which reminded me that I’ve been wanting a new pillow. Ben shadowed me all over the store like the sullen, dutiful child of a shopaholic.

About the only thing I truly needed to buy was a pair of horse blinders, so I wouldn’t be distracted by every chotchke and thingamajig lining the shelf. As we made our way past the small appliance section, the cart instinctively turned (really, can you have too many Crockpots?). “Hold on honey,” I said as I checked out Rivals latest model. My ogling was interrupted by a dash of ice water splashed in my face, in the form of a comment from Ben.

Completely under his breath and mostly to himself, my young son shook his head in disgust, tapped his little foot, looked up at the ceiling tiles and said, “the green-eyed monster.”

“What?” I asked.

“The green-eyed monster,” he repeated cautiously and with a sly grin.

“Oh my gosh! You’re right,” I laughed, shaking the cold water off my face. “You’re absolutely right.”

My clandestine lesson had worked. Only this time, it was on me. Chalk another one up to Mama Bear.

The Sunday Miracles


A few weeks ago, in the middle of a sunny, almost-warm early March day, Alex walked into the kitchen and uttered these shocking words. “Hey, do you want to go on a walk with me?”

This wouldn’t be remarkable for any reason, except for the fact that he’s 17. And given that he’s now a driving, almost adult, I see the mailman (excuse me, the mail carrier) more predictably than I see my son.

I looked around the kitchen to be sure one of his friends hadn’t snuck in behind me, but it indeed appeared that he was speaking to me. It wasn’t necessarily the most convenient time to go for a walk. I was attempting a baking feat, which was ambitious from the start, but when your 17 year old asks you to go on a walk, you drop everything and go.

I wondered if he had anything earth shattering to tell me, but he didn’t. I wondered if I should use the moment to impart lifelong lessons, but I didn’t. Instead, we just walked up to the shops that are a few blocks from the house. He had a gift certificate he was ready to cash in, so there was a destination to the excursion. He spent his gift card and we leisurely strolled through some of the newer shops I haven’t had a chance to visit. We talked about nothing in particular — just little things of no individual significance. But collectively, they added up to mean the world to me. When we got home, he even thanked me for going. Since he wasn’t feverish, I claimed it as the only thing it could be: A Sunday miracle.

Okay, so it wasn’t the parting of the Red Sea. But if you don’t have a 17 year old, here are a couple of simple truths I didn’t see coming:

1. They are their own independent people, with busy schedules — whether it’s social, sports or school, they have their own, real life — with places to be and people to see. And over time Mom’s role gets downsized. One day you’re the star in his show, then suddenly you’re lucky if you get a bit part. If there was playbill for Alex’s past year, my role would be listed at the bottom as, “line cook.”

2. Once they can drive, just wave goodbye. When they are dependent upon you for taxiing, those quick trips from point A to B to C and back again, are actually critical connection points. These are the little windows that give you an inside look at what’s going on. Now that Alex is his own shuttle service, well, those connection points are gone. Gone, as in, “here are your car keys, now drive away with my heart.”

I wasn’t prepared for this. I was actually thrilled that he worked so hard and saved his money for to pay for half a car. (We sprung for the other half, because driving around in half a car would be so awkward.) He has worked for the past three summers and by the time he was 16, had saved way more cash than I had accumulated into my mid 20s.

But regardless of how they arrive at their first set of wheels, it will become a vehicle that clearly furthers the process of letting them go — both literally and figuratively.

So here we are, halfway through Alex’s final semester in high school. In a few short months, my kid will be off to the University of Georgia. Of course, this is wrought with its own excitement, joy, pride, anxiety, sleepless nights, ifs, ands and buts. His role in our family is huge – he’s our firstborn, with two siblings that look up to him, even though they don’t act like it. And he’s the first to leave the nest.

Suffice it to say, I’m feeling sentimentally fragile these days. It’s unknown, even to me, when the emotional pangs will hit — the spontaneously welling of tears that I try quickly to shut down. Along with wearing sunglasses a lot, I’m trying to avoid known triggers, like thinking this is his last (insert event here) at home, looking at our digital photo frame, chock full of little Alex shots, and, of course, Alan Jackson songs.

So I held on to the sunny, warm memory of our Sunday walk throughout the next week. As the following Sunday rolled around, I loitered around the house and found many excuses to hover near his doorway, you know, just waiting to see if a second miracle might occur. As the afternoon ticked along, I took the ball into my own hands, peeked into his room and asked him oh-so casually, “Hey, you want to go play some tennis?” I turned to leave sure his head wouldn’t even lift from his snap chatting endeavors, as he muttered, “Nah.” Instead, he replied with a simple, “Sure.”

Ah, a second Sunday miracle.

I’m pretty certain one can get too pushy with the miraculous. So I was all set to revel in the joy of the past two weeks, when out of the blue the very next Sunday, Alex asked me — just me, no begging sister, no brother or dad allowed — to go to lunch after church. And here’s the kicker: He paid.

This marked the third miraculous Sunday moment in a row. And this past Sunday was Easter, so make that four.

I hesitate to even put it in writing, but could it be that my son is feeling a slight bit sentimental about his impending departure? Could it be that he is feeling the heavy tug as well? I will never ask, but I will take it. And I will hold on to it, ever grateful for his letting me in as I struggle to let him go.

And, of course, I’ll keep my Sunday’s open.

What’s your emergency?


Note: It’s TBT, so I’m sharing my first essay, written many moons ago, but the lesson holds true today — maybe more than ever.

It was a muggy July afternoon and all was peaceful on our quite Atlanta street. I had just gotten both boys down for a nap at the same time. An accomplishment so rare, I decided to treat myself to something completely self-indulgent: A shower. As I silently crept down the hall, giving the dogs my “bark and you die” look, I was struck by the distinct smell of something burning. An insidious smell — like rubber or wiring.

My mind flashed back to the terrifying scene of our neighbor’s house burning to the ground a couple years earlier. Then I remembered the electrical fire up the street. And the kitchen explosion behind us. My thoughts were raging out of control, just as I knew the fire soon would be. Frank was on an airplane coming home from Chicago, so it was all up to me. I darted from room to room, sniffing like a hound on the trail. The threatening smell was everywhere. Upstairs, downstairs, in the hallway, in the kitchen.

Then I heard the beautiful sound of a car coming up the driveway. Frank’s home early. We’re saved. I thought as I ran to greet him. Catapulting myself out the side door, I yelled, “Quick! Something’s burning.” He dropped his luggage on the driveway and dashed in with me on his heels. We flew from room to room like Peter Pan and his shadow.

“Grab the kids and get out of the house,” he shouted as he dialed 9-1-1 and ushered the dogs outside. I took the stairs in two strides and soon had both boys thrown over either shoulder like two sacks of bewildered potatoes. “Everything’s okay,” I said, trying to use my most reassuring mommy voice. As I inhaled the fresh air of safety, I realized we’d made it. At least we had each other. But wait, Frank was still in there.

Before we got to the sidewalk, the fire trucks rounded the corner, sirens blaring. “Wow,” Alex said barely able to contain his excitement. “Are they coming to my house?” There were three fire engines and an ambulance. The firefighters, dressed in their scary aardvark-looking suits, leapt from the giant red trucks and disappeared into the house.

Out of my peripheral vision I saw a group of neighbors congregating. “Not another one,” they had to be s. A few of them risked it and came down to check on us. “We think it’s electrical,” I said, trying to sound like I wasn’t about to have a complete breakdown, imagining every piece of priceless pre-k art reduced to ash.

“Let me take the boys to my house,” my friend Anne offered. “Sure. Great. Uh huh.” I said, just knowing the whole house could go poof at any second.

I stood on the sidewalk accompanied by a fireman who kept watch from behind the ladder truck’s enormous steering wheel. We waited in silence. And waited some more. No hoses were being connected to the hydrant. No flames. Not even a spark. What’s going on? I wondered. After a while, the ambulance left. Then after another while, one of the fire trucks moved on. Finally I asked the driver if I could go in. “Sure,” he said, nonchalantly.

Cautiously, I inched open the side door to prevent being overcome by smoke. All the firemen and Frank were standing in the kitchen looking stumped. “Are you sure you haven’t turned on any electrical appliances today?” One of the men asked me. “Nope, nothing but the coffee pot which I always unplug after using to prevent an electrical fire,” I said confidently, thinking one of them might give me a gold star for being such a whiz at fire safety. I was just about to impress them with my stop, drop and roll technique when one of the men leaned against the dishwasher that was nearing the end of its drying cycle.

He opened the door and pulled out the bottom rack. “I think I’ve found the problem,” he mused. He held up a baby bottle nipple that had taken a kamikaze leap from its basket onto the heating element, burning a hole right through it.

A couple seconds of silence passed, as Frank and I exchanged looks of relief clouded by humiliation. Then, as if on cue, all the firemen burst out laughing. “Oh man, just don’t tell the neighbors,” Frank said half seriously. The firemen were all good sports, reassuring us that we did the right thing. Better safe than sorry and all that. But they were still chuckling as they made their way back to the trucks.

The nipple is encased in a glass baby food jar in the kitchen hutch. Right there on the shelf, for all to see. It’s our reminder of the harrowing afternoon that wasn’t. And now, when one of us is on the verge of overreacting, the other simply poses the question, “do you think it could be a burned nipple?”

Interesting how that has helped us put out a lot of fires.

So long want.


I realize March isn’t the typical time to usher in a New Year’s resolution, but I’m always running late, so this is par for my course. Truth is, my annual resolves tend to dissolve faster than the sugar in my coffee. So with that in mind, I’m changing my tactics.

This year, as 2016 continues to roll in with all its possibilities, I’ve realized that there’s one thing I want most: to want less.

It’s not a resolution, per se, but more of an awareness. An awareness that want will always want more. And at the end of the day, the only thing it breeds is discontent.

I’m seeing the seeds of this insatiable desire in my teenage boys who “need” a new pair of this, a new one of those and the next generation of the latest thingamagig out there. I hear myself saying to them over and over again, “please just appreciate what you have and stop wanting more.” So this year, I vow to listen to myself and practice what I preach.

It’s not that I’m a compulsive spender or that my kids’ college funds are being blown on shoes and handbags. But I do admit, I love a good buy. And, well, let’s face it — there are a lot of them out there. My inbox, and I’m sure yours too, is bombarded by amazing discounts on all the things I didn’t know I couldn’t live without. How can I pass up that flash sale? Or this sale on a sale?  It’s a daily deluge that can quickly sneak in and ramp up.

Not long ago, my new pair of black boots arrived. This was not an impulse purchase, but a necessity, considering I’d gone practically forever — an entire year and then some — without a pair. I pulled them from the box to show my husband who looked at me cockeyed.

“What?” I asked, already ticked at his less-than-enthusiastic expression. “I had free shipping, 20% off my entire purchase, and they were already on sale,” I added defensively, to reinforce the fact that they practically paid me to take them off their hands.

“What’s wrong with your other pair?” he asked.

“What other pair? I haven’t had black boots in more than a year.”

He turned and walked upstairs and into my closet, immediately disappearing into a cloud of chaos, only to return with a pair of great, unworn, black boots that I didn’t even remember I had.

The moment taught me two important things. One, if I can’t keep up with my personal inventory, I have too much. And two, I really need to clean out my closet.

In the early years of my advertising career, I had a salary negotiation with the agency’s president. He told me something that, at a wide-eyed 26, I hadn’t quite realized about the human condition. “It doesn’t matter how much you make,” he said with resignation, “it’s never enough.” How sad, I remember thinking. I didn’t want to be that kind of person then and I don’t want to be it now.

Showy isn’t in my DNA. I come from humble stock. My bloodline has a long tradition of solid, middle-class values. My parents, their parents, their parents’ parents — they all made their money the old-fashioned way: they earned it. And along with earning it, they respected it. Not in a miserly, hoarding way. My parents taught me to appreciate money, but not to mind parting with it either. Mom will empty her pantry for anyone who knocks on the door asking for canned goods, and Dad has been known to surprise strangers by picking up their tab at restaurants. My parents are the type of folks that, even if they had millions of dollars, would still live in their modest ranch home and drive a sensible car. They find absolutely no value in demonstrative wealth.

I look at them now, in their late 70s. They’ve both logged thousands of 9 to 5s: My dad, a retired IBMer, and my mom a former bookkeeper. They don’t have a country club membership or a second home. But they have everything they need and, most importantly, everything they want.

This isn’t a new sense of contentment they’ve stumbled upon in their retirement years. It’s who they are, through and through. My mom has never had a desire for designer anything. She wouldn’t know her Dolce from her Gabbana. This presented some challenges for my older brother and me growing up. Not that we wanted a materialistic mom, but the problem was, ours could sew. Strutting around in your Butterick-brand denim pants (not jeans, please note the distinction) can be detrimental to a middle-schooler’s emotional state. My kids have no idea the bullet they’ve dodged by having a mom that can barely thread a needle.

Yes, 2016 is my year to get back in touch with my not-so-impulsive side — to model my parents’ behaviors and be generous by supporting more worthy causes, not my favorite retail store. So good-bye good buys. So long free shipping with no minimum order. I’m battening down the hatches and putting the hammer down on want. But it’ll be a whole lot easier after my Amazon Prime membership expires.






The ink link.


“Mom, do they have bathrooms in Heaven?” Ben asked when he was 6, with a look of thoughtful concern. I stood stumped, with raised eyebrows, wearing my hmm-I’m-completely-at-a-loss face.

Fortunately, rescue came quick as Ben’s wise older brother Alex weighed in with a beautiful blend of theology and logic. “Ben…” he said emphatically, “your body doesn’t go to heaven. Your soul goes to heaven and your soul doesn’t have privates.”

Uh huh. What he said.

It’s been a number of years since that exchange occurred. But I remember it perfectly. Mainly because I write everything down. I’m not sure why, other than I read somewhere that it was a good idea. And guess what? It is a good idea. Especially since I can’t seem to remember where I left my keys a minute ago, jotting down the interesting things my kids say helps me remember these moments like they just happened.

I’ve got a basket full of memories scratched on napkins, ripped corners of scrap paper, receipts, you name it. From Alex asking “Who made God?” to Emma, when she was a preschooler, asking how the person working at the drive-thru fits into the speaker box, I drop the new quote into my designated basket then eventually get around to adding each one to my on-going Word document. There’s really no big point in doing this, other than the smile it brings me when I scroll down the page every now and then. That, and of course it’ll be great fun to share with their fiancées one of these days.

What I conclude as I scan over my master list of quotes is that childhood is an adorable time, when everything is black and white, but full of color.

One of my favorite entrees happened one October when Ben was in first grade. He was still absorbed in a long-running cowboy phase, wearing his Tony Llamas with everything, including shorts throughout the summer. He’d even been known to sport his leather vest and chaps out in the backyard taming the Wild West in the middle of our urban-lot-sized ponderosa. And Church? Every Sunday he attended in his standard garb: boots, Western shirt, khakis, and rodeo belt — complete with the apropos oversized silver buckle.

On this particular morning, the Sunday school teacher was going around the circle of kids, asking what they were going to be for Halloween. It was my week to be a helper, so as I sat on the carpet behind the children, I overheard Ben’s friend Katie quietly say to him, “I know what you’re going to be for Halloween.”

“What?” Ben asked, skeptically.

“A cowboy,” she replied knowingly.

“Huh?” Ben said, glancing down at his big ‘ole buckle and boots then back at her like she was obviously, apparently, 100%, completely blind. “I am a cowboy,” he replied. “I’m going to be a Power Ranger.”

Silly girl.

Yes, one can glean a lot about children by listening to their quips. Here are a few things I picked up on recently after scanning my sheet of memories.

  1. Children are observant. Living in a metro area, we have our share of panhandlers. One afternoon, when Alex was in third grade, there was a man standing on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign that read “Homeless Vet.” “Look Mom,” Alex said, “there’s a homeless veterinarian.”
  2. Little guys know when to throw in the towel. When Alex was 7, he was upset because his allotted TV time had come to an end. Ben, who was 4 at the time, took it upon himself to rid his brother of his deep sadness. Ben’s happy-making repertoire included classic face-making tricks, like sticking both thumbs in his ears and wiggling his fingers while waggling his tongue at the same time. But after an exhausting number of tries, he walked over to me and threw his hands in the air like a miniature prosecuting attorney. “Mom, I put all my funny faces on him and he’s STEEL sad.”
  3. Childhood is tough. Ben had just turned 6 and was enjoying the loot that came with his birthday. He was focused on the finer points of Lego architecture when he hit a snag. “Emma,” he sighed dramatically to his 2-year-old sister. “When you’re my age, you’re going to have a very difficult life…” I stopped in my tracks to overhear what could be so stressful, “…putting together Legos and stuff.”
  4. Quiet walks are great for imaginations. Alex and I were on a post-dinner walk around the block when he was 7. As we rounded the corner to home, he said, “Mom, what if the roots of all the above-ground trees were really the tops of underground trees?”
  5. Little ones are little philosophers. At the dinner table one night when my Emma was 3, she announced with a Plato-like sense of musing. “Hmm…I don’t like apples. Dramatic pause. And I don’t like sauce. Another pause. But I sure like applesauce!”
  6. Once a daredevil, always a daredevil. One morning when I was taking a shower, I had Ben (then 3) safely set up in my bedroom watching a cartoon. While I was in lathering up, I heard a shocking thud and yelled, “Ben…are you okay?” The bathroom door swung open with bravado and there he stood sporting his favorite blanket as a cape, his little fists resting on his hips. “I’m okay. I was just flying.”
  7. Kids come with a fresh perspective. As a family we were glued to the 2008 Summer Olympics. During the diving competition Ben innocently asked, “Do they get to pick what event they do, like gymnastics or swimming?” He thought the athletes might get to pick their daily activity out of hat, like an elementary school field day. Then during Sean Johnson’s gold medal performance on the beam, he looked up at me — completely blown away by her routine — and asked, “Wow! Does she just make this up as she goes along?”
  8. Little girls are mostly sugar. When Emma was 5, she woke me up one morning by climbing into my bed, using my sheet as a belay rope. She plunked her head on the pillow next to mine and asked me softly, “Mom, when we die, do we get to fly there?” “There” meaning heaven. “Fly” meaning like Tinker Bell. And her innocent question meaning I had another quote to put in ink.

Welcome to my mid-career crisis.


It’s official. I’m having a mid-career crisis. I know this, because I consulted my go-to source of all knowledge: Google. And to no surprise, I met 99% of the checklist items sourced in the gobs of articles on the subject. It seems I’m not in a mild crisis situation, but a full-blown funk. The good news is, at least I’m not alone.

I’m a writer. Always been one — my first article was published in my elementary school newspaper. It was a piece on my trip to Fantasy Island (that’ll date me) where Tattoo greeted me, and Mr. Roarke transformed me into the likes of Nadia Comaneci (quite a fantasy for a gangly girl that could barely manage a handstand). In college, I continued down the writer’s path, finding journalism to be an ideal fit: Mainly because it required the least amount of math. So post-college, with a journalism degree in hand, I marched into the Mobile Press-Register and landed a job as a sports and feature reporter, covering all varieties of high school sports, the weekend police beat and yes, the obituaries. That lasted just over a year, and only because my dad told me I had to show some stick-to-it-iveness.

I moved to Atlanta and quickly found what clicked. For the past couple decades (possibly a quarter century, but that involves math, which I’ve established I’m no good at), I’ve made a living as an advertising copywriter. The first few years were filled with energy, passion and the competitive spirit that’s inherent within the creative department of any given ad agency. Whose script will be chosen so the copywriter and art director can fly to LA or NYC for a week-long shoot? Who can be the cleverest, wittiest, smartest? Who will be most decorated in the annual awards shows? It’s funny, looking back, how much emphasis was put on winning awards for something the rest of the world desperately tries to ignore. Regardless, it was an inspiring place to be in my mid-to-late 20s and I loved being surrounded by talented, creative folks all day.

Then along came Alex, and everything changed. This came as no surprise to anyone but me. I was sure a child wouldn’t derail my career. But this 6-pound, 8-ounce little guy quickly turned things upside down and inside out. It was during an agency trip to Napa (the most beautiful place I didn’t want to be) that I decided to pull the plug and go freelance.

Then along came Ben. And a few years later, along came Emma. My role as a mother had completely swallowed my role as a copywriter, so I stopped going into agencies and toed the strict line that I’d only work from home. To my bewilderment, it worked. I’ve continued to make a decent contribution to the family budget, while working from my home headquarters. But over the past couple years, I’ve slowly felt a unwelcome writer’s discontent sneaking in, demanding something more. So, taking my Google-search advice to heart, it’s time I shook up my career path and tried something new.

I’ve known for some time that the only truly fulfilling writing I’ve done in the longest, is my mostly kid-prompted essays. I’ve written them oh-so sporadically, only when the inspiration hits and the calendar allows (did I mention sporadically?) And while I’ve known I love this type of writing, it doesn’t pay … in cash. But thanks to my mid-career crises, I’ve come to realize that payment comes in many forms, fulfillment being mighty valuable. So, welcome to my blog.

This actually comes as another surprise to me. I’ve avoided blogging for years, preferring to write my essays in a bubble. After all, I’m a classically trained journalist, who pledged allegiance to Strunk & White and vowed to abide by AP Style. I was raised with the mentality that being “published” must be earned to be legit. So I faithfully avoided the everyone’s-a-writer blogging platform and, candidly, considered it more a blahg than anything else. But guess what? In the past year, I’ve discovered the opposite. There are some amazing voices out there in the blogging realm — authentic, thoughtful, unique and talented writers who share their stories in a way that has inspired me to do the same.

Thank you for being a part of my antidote to the dreaded mid-career crisis. I hope you’ll come back and I hope you’ll enjoy something along the way. Who knows, maybe I can inspire you to tell your stories. If you do, don’t forget to share them with me.